COP:24/7 will feature many of this week's post celebrating the upcoming Little Rock Black Pride weekend events being held in Central City, July 18-20. According to LRBP's Board of Director's spokesperson, S. Rogers, the weekend was devised as a means to offer more activities that were culturally sensitive and filled a niche that the BSGL community perceived wasn't being addressed. All this week I will explore various facets of Black Pride juxtaposed to a host of issues impacting the African American community. During this week of exploration, I'm seeking, encouraging and cajoling your responses as well as your dialouge participation. Let your voices reflect your viewpoint on what Black Pride means to you. Ultimately, all our post will culminate in coverage of the scheduled weekend events. To get us started on this quest, I found this article among the many sources that I use as content for this forum and I knew immediately that I should share it with my readers as we do a 360 on Black Pride in 2008.
On June 14, 2007, the day that lawmakers finally voted down an anti-gay marriage amendment to the state constitution, Katherine Patrick stood outside the State House and looked up at her father. Gov. Deval Patrick was standing on the front steps, surrounded by a jubilant crowd of hundreds that mobbed the brick sidewalk and spilled halfway across Beacon Street. As they cheered the defeat of the amendment - an effort led by the governor, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Sal DiMasi - Katherine had never before felt more proud of her father."Because, of course, he didn’t know that I was gay then," the 18-year-old recalls. "So, for someone so publicly to fight for something that doesn’t even affect him was just like, ’That’s my dad,’ you know?" she says with a laugh. "That’s all I could think. I was very, very proud to be part of this family, and this state in general.""It was great. I’m very glad," she adds, looking at her father. "Don’t cry, Dad." Patrick’s eyes are brimming with tears, prompting some good-natured teasing from his daughter. "He’s done some good things," she says with a laugh, patting his arm. "I appreciate it. Want a tissue? Oh, God. He’s a crier."Katherine and her father are sitting next to each other at a conference room table at the Beacon Street headquarters of MassEquality, where Katherine has been interning since March. Though Patrick and his wife, First Lady Diane Patrick, have zealously guarded the privacy of Katherine and her older sister Sarah, a recent graduate of New York University, they reluctantly agreed to Katherine’s decision to share her story publicly. Both Katherine and Patrick agreed to an interview with Bay Windows, they said, in the hopes of avoiding a "gotcha" news story about Katherine’s sexual orientation that might give the false impression that the family was anything less than accepting and supportive of Katherine. "As private of an issue as it is, we’ve sort of had to come to terms with the fact that we are a public family and there you give a part of yourself away," says Katherine. "And we also ... wanted people to know that it’s not only something that we accept, but it’s something that we’re very proud of. It’s a great aspect of our lives and there’s nothing about it that is shameful or that we would want to hide." Katherine recalls coming out to her parents as they prepared for a picnic by the pool at their home in the Berkshires. It was July 3, 2007 at around 2:30 p.m., she says."You remember the date?" the governor inquires, eyebrows raised. In a telephone interview, Diane Patrick, who had planned to attend the interview with her husband and Katherine but got caught in traffic on a return trip from Providence, R.I., expressed similar surprise at Katherine’s detailed memory. Katherine had already come out to her friends, her sister Sarah and a maternal aunt with whom she is close, Lynn Prime. She says she waited for an opportunity to come out to both parents at the same time - a difficult task given their busy lives - so as not to make either of them feel that she was more comfortable with one parent over the other. So when the moment came, she just decided to go for it. Walking into the kitchen, she asked her parents to stop what they were doing and she asked her aunt Lynn to leave the room because she wanted to talk with her mother and father alone. Her parents turned to her and she said, "I’m a lesbian.""And I’ll always remember the first thing my dad did was, [he] wrapped me in a bear hug and said, ’Well, we love you no matter what,’" Katherine recalls. Diane Patrick moved in for a group hug. After a moment, Katherine, in what she describes as typical teen behavior, asked her hovering parents to step off. "I said, ’Okay, okay,’" she laughs. "I was like ... ’Okay, thanks.’"Diane Patrick received the news with a mixture of happiness and relief. She says that after Katherine had asked her aunt to leave the room because she needed to talk with her parents, she had no idea what her daughter was going to say. "I often think the worst when I get that kind of build-up. And so I was thinking, ’Oh my goodness, she failed something or she did something really bad’ - not that she has a habit of doing those things - but I worried." When her daughter made the big reveal, Diane almost burst out laughing out of sheer relief. "I thought, ’Well, what did she think we were going to say about this?’ Because I really hoped that she didn’t harbor any concern that we were going to be worried or upset or scandalized in any way," the First Lady explains. She was happy that her daughter felt comfortable sharing the news with them and curious to know how long Katherine had known she is a lesbian and how she felt about it. They discussed those things a bit, but really, said Diane, "it was a nonevent in the sense that there wasn’t any tension. I was just happy for her that she knew who she was and that she was comfortable with who she was.""It was the easiest coming out experience that anyone could possibly have," Katherine says.The governor’s only good-natured gripe about Katherine’s revelation was this: "Why the hell did she tell her aunt before she told me?"Katherine, who will enroll in Smith College in the fall, says she began feeling attractions to women during the summer between her sophomore and junior years of high school. (She graduated from St. Andrew’s School in Delaware.) She wasn’t sure if that meant she was a lesbian or bisexual, despite the urging of a close friend to, "pick a label, pick a label." But it wasn’t until after she joined her father in last year’s Boston Pride Parade - the first time in the country’s history that a sitting governor joined Pride festivities -that she became comfortable with the lesbian label."Definitely, I’ve come into my own since then and I feel much more comfortable with myself," says Katherine, who will turn 19 in less than a month. "And I’ve been closer to my parents since coming out than any other time, I think."Patrick is the first elected official in the country to win statewide office after having campaigned on support for marriage equality. He spent a significant amount of political capital on the defeat of the marriage amendment, meeting privately with more than a dozen wavering legislators, strategizing with legislative leaders and publicly discussing why he supported marriage equality and why he thought the amendment should be defeated. But he says that the notion that one of his daughters could be gay didn’t factor into his advocacy on the issue. "I don’t think we thought about who they loved - more that they knew what love was and that they would have love in their lives," he explains. "You know, it’s interesting even just thinking about having this interview. Katherine and Diane and I and her aunt and Sarah were all talking about, you know, would we give an interview to announce one of our kids was straight? It’s just not about the public ... it’s just about making sure that they had the fullness of their personality and their humanity. "Fault me for not getting it," the governor adds. Then he reveals when he got the first inkling that his daughter might be gay: "I think when Katherine started to memorize all the episodes of The L Word, there was some hint that maybe she was sending us." That was last summer. The governor’s revelation causes a burst of laughter from Katherine. "I always say when I stopped talking about Friends and started talking about The L Word was when it started to hit some people."As the interview digresses to a discussion of favorite characters on the sometimes steamy Showtime soap - Katherine is partial to Alice, who provides much of The L Word’s comic relief - the governor turns to his press secretary, Kyle Sullivan. "Do you know what they’re talking about?" he asks."I don’t have Showtime," Sullivan confesses."I’ve said to Katherine, ’Come on, I’ll watch an episode or two with you,’" Patrick says. Katherine’s feeling on the matter? Don’t go there. "I love you, but there’s certain things, there’s certain lines [you don’t cross]" she laughs. The absence of struggle in Katherine’s coming out is not solely a function of her parents’ support. Her mother says that both Katherine and her sister Sarah are independent women who have always made up their own minds rather than following the crowd. Katherine, says Diane, "has always been comfortable with who she is, and that has not always been what was particularly in style at the moment." When her middle-school classmates started wearing make-up and mid-riff-baring tops, for example, Katherine stuck with her jeans, sweats and Old Navy outfits. If she struggled with not feeling a part of the "in crowd," Diane asserts, she never expressed it. "I don’t think she ever felt that way," says Diane. "She was happy with who she was."Indeed, the youngest member of the Patrick family, despite her professed nervousness, exudes comfort and confidence during her first sit-down interview. Though she apologizes for showing up in her "babysitting clothes" - green t-shirt, khaki cargo shorts and black low-top Converse sneakers - her mother says that’s Katherine’s standard mode of dress.And while Katherine is comfortable with her very public coming out, her parents remain wary. Patrick’s misgivings stem partly from the fact that his daughter would not do an interview to announce that she is straight. "But the world is such and my job is such that rather than have someone do a ’gotcha’ and our giving the misimpression that this wasn’t completely natural in our family, then we thought, ’Alright, let’s just say it and move on,’" he says. Diane’s concerns stem from a mother’s instinct to protect her daughter and her desire to keep both of her daughters "from the burdens of public life." It’s why she doesn’t see herself becoming the proverbial PFLAG parent and advocating publicly for LGBT issues. "This issue involves one of my children and I have really wanted them to not have to feel, frankly, answerable to the public and I still don’t want it," Diane explains. "As a mother my instinct is to protect my children from discomfort and so that would be the reason why I would not relish [an advocacy] role, because it would be about her."Despite his concerns about publicity, Patrick ultimately maintains that his daughter’s coming out is "just no biggie." She will be joining him again in this year’s Boston Pride Parade on June 14. "First of all, we’ve had so many people in our lives whom we love who are gay or lesbian, so that’s not that unfamiliar to us," says the governor. "You know, I can still - because we live in Massachusetts - I can still imagine what Katherine’s wedding is going to be like." Lowering his voice, he adds, "How much it’s gonna cost.""Yup," laughs his daughter - who is single for now - indicating that she’s dreaming of a big, fat, gay wedding. "It’s okay, Dad."